Gender Issues: Wikipedia’s Gender Gap

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Apr 29, 2013    •    661 Views

By Lilli DeBode, guest blogger and senior at Kent Place School

Wikipedia is a widely known encyclopedia, providing free access to millions of articles to anyone with an internet connection. Anyone is free to edit or create a page (granted, those edits might be removed) but there are absolutely no qualifications necessary to become an editor. So then how can one explain the fact that barely 13% of contributors are women? This is the puzzle that Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, is trying to solve.

Speculations on why men make the majority of the edits are not that unexpected.

Technology has always been in the stereotypical male realm. Because Wikipedia’s creation was organic, men gravitated towards it more quickly and things haven’t changed very much since its founding in 2001.

According to Sarah Stierch, a fellow with the Wikimedia Foundation, “The average Wikipedia editor is a well-educated white male. Well-educated white males have been writing history and the story of the world since ancient times.” She certainly has a point; why would this case be any different?

Some might wonder why it even matters who makes the edits. It matters because a major goal of Wikipedia’s team is to create a site where “Everyone brings their crumb of information to the table,” to create a well-rounded resource. If mostly men create and edit pages, topics that concern men are updated and lengthy while the woman-focused topics are neglected. Gardner provided her own example: Pat Barker is an acclaimed author living in England. She had three paragraphs on her entire page. Niko Bellic, a fictional character in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV, had five times more information on his page.

Hopefully now that the Wikipedia gender gap is a priority for the Wikimedia Foundation, women will start to be more represented in the editor community to bring more perspective to our sources.

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